Beatitudes One to Four (Matthew 5:3-6)

In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes spiritual features found in his followers. The first feature that he mentions is poor in spirit. Such an attitude is similar to humility in outcome, and it probably is the root of which humility is the fruit. Jesus does not mean a person who is self-demeaning, who pretends that he or she cannot do anything. Instead the poor in spirit have realised that they have no resources within themselves in order to serve God.

Yet every person has a mind and certain talents. Why can they not serve God since they have such helps? The answer is that sin has affected all of them. The person who is poor in spirit realises that he is a sinner and that his sin makes him poor in numerous ways. Instead of being wise, he knows his sin can make him act foolishly. Instead of being humble, he knows his sin can lead him to self-promotion. The poor in spirit realise that they are creatures dependent on God and are called to be his servants. But they realise that they have no resources in themselves.

The second feature is mourning. Mourning does not mean the absence of joy because later Jesus commands his followers to be joyful. Instead, mourning is a response to something that is wrong, and the wrong that saddens them is sin, whether in themselves or in others. Sin defiles and destroys, and is going to lead people to hell. A member of the kingdom takes seriously the presence of sin.

The third feature is gentleness, but it is not a weak gentleness. Gentleness is usually revealed when a person responds to a difficult situation. It is connected to kindness, to appreciation of the other person, to restraint and to not acting selfishly.

Fourth, each member of the kingdom longs for righteousness. Given that they have already been justified, the righteousness here is not a desire to have the imputed righteousness of Jesus. Instead, the desire is based on that fact. They long for a world in which there will be nothing but righteousness, and the evidence that they have this desire is that they live righteously now. Jesus will describe features of this practical righteousness later in the sermon, but we can say that real righteousness flows from an inner desire to practice the commandments of God.

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